Founded as one of the nation’s first forestry academies to train men for service in the state forests, the Mont Alto Campus has a rich tradition of conservation and environmental awareness.
Today, the Forest Technology Program continues in its 115-year mission of nurturing men and women students’ passions for nature and science, the environment and research, conservation and technology.
Derek Furry ’11 found his purpose while climbing a tree in the Penn State Mont Alto Arboretum ― a living, historic collection and outdoor classroom with over 1,000 trees.
“I discovered my passion for trees and their health at Penn State Mont Alto,” he said.
After graduation, Furry took the skills and knowledge he gained in arboriculture and urban forestry classes and applied them to a career with Bartlett Tree Experts. He remembers getting a call about the job while standing under the horsechestnut tree adjacent to Penn State Mont Alto Science Technology Building.
Another alumnus, Michael Wright ’05, knew early on that he wanted to work for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. His career there allows him to manage forests and wildlife habitat. He also interacts with the public in workshops about managing woodlots and DCNR’s role in conservation.
“When I graduated from Penn State Mont Alto, I already had a leg up on people who were working in this field for two or three years. The studies and lab work in Mont Alto’s Forest Technology Program had me prepared,” Wright said.
The program curriculum continues to evolve and is one of twenty-four schools in North America accredited through the Society of American Foresters. Specified teaching standards and faculty involvement are required to maintain accreditation.
Upon graduation, forest technicians have many job options available to them from conducting forest inventories, to gathering research data, marking timber, or supervising timber sales. Many graduates continue their education and transition to Bachelor of Science programs in the Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.
Craig Houghton, Forest Technology program coordinator, along with faculty Peter Linehan and Elizabeth Brantley, not only teach classes and advise the Forestry Club and Woodsmen Team ― a co-ed club sport at Penn State Mont Alto ― but also regularly take students to professional conferences and on field trips.
Their mentorship has led to a continued connection with many former students including Furry―who has invited his former professors to his upcoming wedding.
"We live and breathe forestry education,” said Houghton. “We spend a lot of time with our students and when they graduate, staying in touch and sharing in their successes is tremendously satisfying.”